Most of us have a list of things we want in life. It can include a certain type of livelihood, a different lifestyle, maybe a different car or a bigger house, sometimes even different loved ones. It’s not uncommon to see people wishing if their parents were like someone else’s, if their partner was like someone else, if their life was different and so forth. It’s not too bad — to wish for something different, for, desires propel most people to act and live a certain way. So, is there a way to be at peace while living in the materialistic world? Yes. How? Let me share with you a little story first.
Once upon a time, a monk was giving a talk on gratitude. He was saying that everyone had something to be grateful for. That, we all had something of value, that, everyone was blessed by God. No sooner did he finish the sermon than he was approached by a beggar.
“I don’t agree with you,” he said, “I’m homeless and I’ve no possessions of any value at all. I’ve nothing that will attract any price in the world. So, not all of us are blessed. Some are penniless and worthless like me. ”
The monk gave a compassionate look and said, “What if, I say, there’s something you can give and be paid $100,000 in return?”
“You are joking. I don’t have anything worth $100k, but, if you think I do, I’ll gladly give it for even a fraction of that sum.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. For $100k, I’ll give anything.”
“Well, I know someone who will buy a pair of eyes for that much. Will you sell?”
“Of course not!”
“How about your kidneys, your legs, or your hands?”
“How can I give parts of my body?”
“But, you just said you have nothing of value. The truth is there are many things you have that are of value, only that you are choosing to not factor them in. You are taking them for granted as if it’s your right to have them.”
This leads me to the point I wish to make: gratitude. Often, people think that their life ought to be a certain way before they can be grateful. A mistake. Instead, you start being grateful and your life will become a certain way. Try it to believe me. Imagine it’s raining pretty hard. Desire is wishing for the rain to stop and gratitude is carrying an umbrella. If peace is the seed of happiness, gratitude is the womb that carries it.
Don’t we all have enough to be grateful? Just look around and you’ll see there’s plenty you have, plenty of grace, blessings, plenty of things — some valuable, some priceless. With every breath we take, the least we can do is to be thankful for everything we have. Rather than allowing the endless wishes to squeeze the breath out of your life, why not see how breathtaking this life is? Why not take a breath and pause and reflect and appreciate life as it is. Gratitude is not a promise of the future but a commitment to the present.
Mulla Nasrudin’s girlfriend asked for a solitaire but he refused.
“Why Mulla,” she said, “don’t you want me to always think of you? Whenever I’ll see the ring, it’ll remind me of you.”
“Of course, dear,” said Mulla, “but rather than the diamond, I would rather have you look at your finger without the ring. That will also remind you of me.”
There you go. You can think about what all you don’t have and be sad or you can look at what you do have and be grateful. Trust me, in the grand scheme of things, presence or absence of a stone, be it a solitaire or any other, makes practically no difference. How can material possessions help you to be at peace, or to be more healthy, or even more connected? I’m not saying money is not important. It is. It can give a basic safety net, but, how much is enough?
Look at the ocean, how gigantic it is. It’s no more than the size of your hand on the world map. Our planet is no more than the size of a tennis ball in our galaxy. Our galaxy is no bigger than a mustard seed in the universe. The whole universe is a tiny dot in the infinite creation. Therefore, the meaning of our existence depends on how we value what we have and not on how great our material possessions are — because no matter how much, they’ll always be minuscule compared to what surrounds us.
Peace is a choice, an option, a path. Being grateful is the easiest way to be peaceful.